Running the Wrong Way

Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.  But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

Jonah 1:1-3

For a long time, I heard the story of Jonah and somewhat looked down my nose at him for directly disobeying the Lord and running the opposite direction that he was supposed to go.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that Jonah is quite a bit like me and I am quite a bit like Jonah.  The more I see those similarities, the more encouraging the book of Jonah becomes.

Jonah was a prophet.  And the word of the Lord came to him to tell him to “go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”  That is an easy to follow, direct command.  And Jonah disobeyed it.  Before we shake our heads at Jonah too much, let us look a little closer at this command.

“Go and ‘cry against’ Ninevah” is a pretty straightforward command.  But we should look back in history to see what Ninevah was.  Ninevah was the main city of the Assyrians.  The Assyrians were a conquering people known for their brutality.  Legend says that they would take prisoners of war and nail them to the outer walls of Ninevah (dead or alive) to discourage invaders.  This is the city to which Jonah was called to go.  He was to go to those people with a message of judgment.  I can see how that would be a fearful assignment.  Thinking of his own safety, I’m sure Jonah didn’t want to get within a thousand miles of Ninevah, as doing so would likely mean torture and death.

How many times have we “ran the opposite direction” when God wanted us to do something.  How often have we been silent simply out of a fear of embarrassment?  We have likely never had a legitimate fear of death for obeying the Lord as Jonah, yet how often have we disobeyed?  The next time we hear the story of Jonah, maybe we should not be so quick to criticize him when we have likely done far worse.

2 responses to this post.

  1. We often judge Jonah pretty harshly for not wanting to go to Nineveh don’t we? I heard a preacher say once that Jonah going to Nineveh would be like us being told by God to go preach to the Taliban in Afghanistan. That sort of put it in perspective for me. No wonder Jonah didn’t want to go!

    I was at camp last week, so I’m just reading your posts today. They were a blessing as usual :). Keep up the good work on your blog. It’s always an encouragement.

    Reply

    • I would say that the Taliban comparison is a good one. If the Lord told me to go to the Taliban and tell them to repent, I would probably have some hesitation too! By the way, thank you for the mention on your blog. I appreciate it. Hope you had a good week at camp! 🙂

      Reply

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